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Red card drama as Australia pip New Zealand in quarter-final thriller

By Finn Morton
Madison Ashby and Charlotte Caslick of Australia celebrate winning the 2024 Perth SVNS women's match between New Zealand and Australia at HBF Park on January 27, 2024 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Playing in front of their home fans at HBF Park, Australia emerged victorious after a thrilling Perth SVNS quarter-final against rivals New Zealand that included plenty of red card drama.

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Following their first loss of the 2023/24 season on Friday, hometown favourites Australia defeated Canada on Saturday morning to book their place in the knockout rounds against New Zealand.

Speedster Faith Nathan opened the scoring in the fourth minute, and another try to Madison Ashby saw the Australian women’s side race out to a rapid 12-nil lead.

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Charlotte Caslick on Australia’s red card problem after loss to GB | Perth SVNS

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Charlotte Caslick on Australia’s red card problem after loss to GB | Perth SVNS

But the first term was marred by drama – and there was a lot of it.

New Zealand’s teenage sensation Jorja Miller was sent from the field for a high shot, and Australian Maddison Levi followed soon after for a separate incident near the sideline. For Levi, it’s the second time she’s been sent off in as many games.

Levi walked off the field and was visibly upset. It proved to be a turning point, too, with a quick Michaela Blyde double handing the visitors a slender two-point lead.

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But Australia reminded the rugby world why they were worthy champions in Dubai and Cape Town, and why they’re favourites to win on home soil as well.

Captain Charlotte Caslick and replacement Dominique Du Toit crossed for a try each as a six-women Australia ran out to an unassailable 10-point advantage.

“I’ve never experienced a game like that and I think that’s the beauty of sport, the unpredictability of it, and then the ability for teams to react and show some character,” coach Tim Walsh told reporters.

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“But evidence would suggest that we’ve got an issue and we need to sort it out.”

Australia were in control for a fair period of that first-half, but the game’s momentum swung New Zealand’s way almost immediately after the break.

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Blyde scored her first, and then another shortly after – but the home crowd questioned the decision as the replay was shown on the big screen.

The SVNS Series veteran threw her arms in the air to avoid a knock-on but it was still close call. While he hadn’t seen a replay yet, Walsh suggested Australia “don’t get the rub of the green at home.”

“Jorja (Miller) got red-carded early and then we got that 12-nil,” Walsh said.

“That knock-on when Blyde scored, I haven’t watched it properly yet but I hope that wasn’t a knock-on because I don’t know how they missed that if that was the case.

“We don’t seem to get the rub of the green at home but again, that’s sport as well… whatever’s thrown at us we have to adapt.”

Australia will play the United States of America for a spot in the Perth SVNS final at 12:46 pm local time on Sunday afternoon.

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